Focusing on nothing

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Focusing on nothing

Postby Collective » Wed Nov 25, 2009 4:55 pm

I usually focus on the breath, the nostrils, but this becomes so subtle as to be almost useless. I just find myself 'straining' to focus which, kind of defeats the object (I think).

So what I tend to do is focus on 'nothing'. Eptiness?

I just sit there with no thoughts, and when they do come (and they do), I just readjust to focusing on nothing. It's not so much that I force the thoughts away as that's just attachemnt, it's like I deattach from the thinking mind. I guess if you took the focusing away from the breath, that's what I'm doing. Sorry, it's weird to explain.

I guess I use 'nothingness' as my focus.

Aren't we supposed to let go of breath focus ultimately?
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Nov 25, 2009 7:19 pm

Well ultimately I suppose breath lets go of us Collective..If you want an object you could try placing your hand lightly on your abdomen and note the rise and fall, its tends to register even breaths that are very subtle. Just slight changes in pressure on the hand.
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 25, 2009 7:54 pm

Hi Collective,

Yes, the breath becomes finer. If you are trying to do a practice empasising concentration then the standard approach is that as it becomes finer a "sign" (nimitta in Pali) arises in the mind (often the impression of light) and the focus switches to that. However, if you're losing focus too early it won't work - you need more mindfulness directed towards the breath to discern hte subtle sensations.

I don't know what instructions you are following, but the first few chapter of Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond" are available as a pdf here:
http://www.bswa.org/zencart/index.php?m ... 39916a93cb

Try reading what he says about that process.

Metta
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Dan74 » Thu Nov 26, 2009 12:18 am

Most likely "focusing on nothing" is a kind of dullness. Check if you are alert, or in a sort of "spin down state".

The subtle breath practice when the physical sensation is gone is something that happens after a fair bit of experience with breath awareness.

Watch out for dullness - stupour is one of the 5 hindrances in meditation.

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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Collective » Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:53 am

There is no dullness, just awareness of emptiness, or experiencing nothing.

I just can't seem to find any sensation with my breath, neither nostrils or abdomen. Especially not the abdomen. And I don't think it conducive to keep my hand positioned on my abdomen as it requires effort. Best Iget is when I'm aware of breathing holistically, all over, generally. But then I start thinking 'is this not focused enough?'
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:58 am

Question:

Is focusing on nothing,

the same as,

not focusing on something?

Sounds like word games, but this may be more critical than one thinks.
(or doesn't think)
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Collective » Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:17 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:Question:

Is focusing on nothing,

the same as,

not focusing on something?

Sounds like word games, but this may be more critical than one thinks.
(or doesn't think)

I agree.

To put is simply, I need a focus, and breath focussing is so subtle as to be non existent.

Or is it maybe a case of me needing to enhance my concentration on the breath rather than find a new focus?
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:33 pm

Do you have a hands on teacher Collective ? One minutes showing is worth pages of internet discussion.
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Moggalana » Thu Nov 26, 2009 4:39 pm

Hi Collective,

you wrote about focusing on the breath "holistically". I once read about a Zen excersise for cultivating samadhi. A student is instructed to so fully concentrate onto the experience of the whole breath (and not onto a particular part like the nose or abdomen) until the "breather" vanishes and the only thing remaining is the breath itself. You become the breath. Maybe that could work for you?

Mingyur Rinpoche, a Mahamudra teacher of the tibetan buddhist tradition, sometimes states that the best meditation is non-meditation. It is a shamatha practice without an object or rather the object of awareness is awareness itself. Maybe that is what you are doing? You can find some instructions here and there.

Just a few thoughts...
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:26 pm

Can I just point out respectfully Moggalana that this subforum is called "Theravadin Meditation." It may be that Collection finds your suggestions useful. It may be that they would be better in another subforum.

:anjali:
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:45 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Can I just point out respectfully Moggalana that this subforum is called "Theravadin Meditation." It may be that Collection finds your suggestions useful. It may be that they would be better in another subforum.

:anjali:


I don't see anything completely out of place with the comment, if you look through this subforum there is atral projection and several other posts which are not spcific to theravada, the key is if it is a beneficial or compatable idea!
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Moggalana » Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:14 pm

I'm sorry if I my posting was inappropriate or if I offended you in any way, Sanghamitta. Nowadays, I feel mostly drawn to Theravada but I have been influenced and inspired by many teachers of different schools. I also think that there is a huge amount of skilful means availabale to us and that we should use what is beneficial. Zen, Vajrayana and Theravada are merely labels. Ultimately, all those different schools date back to the Buddha. Many different schools, one Dharma/Dhamma. For what it's worth, you could probably also find Theravada teachers instructing their students with one of the methods I mentioned above.

With Metta :anjali:

PS: Collective, what Sanghamitta suggested is probably the most useful. Find a teacher who can instruct you in person :)
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:36 pm

No offense taken at all Mogallana. I just have an excessively tidy mind and like things in the boxes which are labelled for them.. :tongue:
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Nov 26, 2009 7:38 pm

Hi Collective:
Collective wrote: Best Iget is when I'm aware of breathing holistically, all over, generally. But then I start thinking 'is this not focused enough?'

That's actually an approach Ajahn Brahm suggests in the link I gave above:
I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the
breath. In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere. If you locate
the breath at the tip of your nose then it becomes “nose awareness,” not
breath awareness, and if you locate it at your abdomen then it becomes
“abdomen awareness.” Just ask yourself right now:“Am I breathing in
or breathing out? How do I know?” There! The experience that tells
you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on. Let go of the
concern about where this experience is located. Just focus on the experience
itself.

Other teachers have other approaches, but if you are doing a concentration practise with the breath then Ajahn Brahm's approach can be quite effective, since, as I understand it, if you are aiming for the sort of deeply absorbed Jhana that Ajahn Brahm teaches, in the end you'll have to let go of the physical sensations. [If you are aiming for something different it's not so useful, different approaches are good for different things...]

However, as others have said, do beware of sloth and torpor. It's the most devious hindrance because it is possible to get into a very, very, pleasant dull state and be quite comfortable in that dead end for a long time...

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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Collective » Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:32 pm

Moggalana wrote:Hi Collective,

you wrote about focusing on the breath "holistically". I once read about a Zen excersise for cultivating samadhi. A student is instructed to so fully concentrate onto the experience of the whole breath (and not onto a particular part like the nose or abdomen) until the "breather" vanishes and the only thing remaining is the breath itself. You become the breath. Maybe that could work for you?

Mingyur Rinpoche, a Mahamudra teacher of the tibetan buddhist tradition, sometimes states that the best meditation is non-meditation. It is a shamatha practice without an object or rather the object of awareness is awareness itself. Maybe that is what you are doing? You can find some instructions here and there.

Just a few thoughts...


"[W]ithout an object or rather the object of awareness is awareness itself"

Now that sounds exactly what I am trying to do
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Collective » Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:38 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Can I just point out respectfully Moggalana that this subforum is called "Theravadin Meditation." It may be that Collection finds your suggestions useful. It may be that they would be better in another subforum.

:anjali:

Ok now I'm really confused. What have I been doing for the last 6 months? I thought I was doing vipassanathis which was a part of Theravain mediation

No I don't have a teacher - there isn't one even remotely close. I have just 5 books:

Buddhism: The Plain Facts
Robert Mann & Rose Youd

Buddhism Plain and Simple
Steve Hagen

Meditation Now or Never
Steve Hagen

Mindfulness in Plain English
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

8 Mindful Steps to Happiness
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby Dan74 » Fri Nov 27, 2009 12:32 am

Collective wrote:There is no dullness, just awareness of emptiness, or experiencing nothing.

I just can't seem to find any sensation with my breath, neither nostrils or abdomen. Especially not the abdomen. And I don't think it conducive to keep my hand positioned on my abdomen as it requires effort. Best Iget is when I'm aware of breathing holistically, all over, generally. But then I start thinking 'is this not focused enough?'


I am not a teacher and perhaps some who is a teacher or who has a lot more experience can comment.

My understanding is that unless you are a proficient meditator, you should stick with an object. Otherwise there is a danger of a disconnect with reality, with meditator going off into the lala-land , disconnected from the physical body and the present moment.

If you perceive nothing, what kind of vipassana is this? Vipassana means insight, what are you getting insight into? The arising of craving, anger and ignorance?

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Re: Focusing on nothing

Postby ground » Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:00 am

Dear friends

reading this thread and the good comments provided here, I feel inspired to give some quotations I of a text I have recalled while reading here (especially Paññāsikhara's question). I do not want to interfere. Please simply ignore if you feel that my post does not match the thread.

Having eliminated holding on to form, identifiable characteristics and wishfulness,
while cultivating the three gateways to freedom [sunyata, animitta, apranihita]
is the activity of the Lord of limitations.
...
Grasping experience through thought, which is the sphere of operation of our "mind",
is itself the ultimate content of what is.
...
One does not remain even in the states of absence of movements of thought
or of non-movement.
One should not remain in a state wherein there is no doubt,
nor eliminate a state of doubt.
...


and

One doesn't dwell even in the "middle", there being no middle since there are no extremes.
Without dwelling on anything whatsoever, in such a way one should cultivate a state of calm.
...
There is nothing to be affirmed and nothing to dwell on;
since there is no conditioned activity, (kowing it) is like knowing space;
Therefore everything arising from conditioned activity is a defect of contemplation.
...
Experiencing itself cannot be objectivied or dwelled upon.
Removing this defect of objectivying and dwelling on experience
is a subtle form of mental fixation.
...
Correcting body and mind according to what pleases one
Is the peg by which thoughts are held.
...
When [a thought] arisies one does not eliminate it, nor does one
construct a support for the mind when no [thought] arises.

The Oral Instructions of Manjushrimitra

Kind regards
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